5. Cooperation that Goes Beyond ‘Doing the Same Thing at the Same Time’

Piggybacking off of #4, the natural interactions and moment-to-moment gameplay is deeply enhanced through cooperation that goes beyond ‘doing the same thing at the same time’, as with many games (traditional and VR alike). It’s one thing to shooting the same baddies together with the same guns, but it’s a deeply immersive experience to work together in different, intermingling roles to achieve the same objective.

For instance, the helmsman steers from the ship’s wheel itself, and their view is often obscured by the sails. That makes it a boon to have a player at the bow of the ship calling out micro-navigational adjustments to help the helmsman avoid rocks, reefs, and enemy ships, just as it’s helpful to have someone keeping an eye on the map below deck and verbally relaying macro-navigation to the helmsman (ie: which direction to the next island, islands or areas of the map to avoid).

If you happen to come across a hostile enemy ship who wants to come in for a broadside, one player can man an extra sail while another goes below deck to make sure the cannons are loaded and ready. And when it comes time to let loose the salvo, you’re likely to take some shots to the hull, which causes water to leak inside. Left untended, those leaks will sink your ship entirely, so while one player might stay on the cannons to make sure the enemy isn’t taking free shots, another can grab planks from the barrels to patch up the holes, while another still can use a bucket to bail water from the ship using and toss it over board before it overtakes the ship completely.

The game could have been designed to avoid these ‘issues’ (having your view blocked by the sales, making the map available as a menu instead of placing it in the game world below deck), but that would have eliminated opportunities for emergent roles and cooperation which requires multiple players to do different things in order to achieve the shared outcome of effectively operating your ship.

6. Wide Ranging (Optional) Pacing

Sometimes players want action, and sometimes they want to relax. Sometimes they want adventure, and sometimes they want to goof around and laugh. In many games, the pacing is scripted—in an FPS, you’ll clear a room full of enemies, and then maybe you’ll get some story, and then maybe you’ll solve a puzzle before finding more enemies. In such games, ‘relaxation’ might not even have a place in the game, and the player might have to change games entirely if they are in the mood for that kind of gameplay.

Sea of Thieves operates more like a choose-your-own adventure sandbox where you can seek out the gameplay you’re in the mood for. Want action? Scan the horizon for enemy ships and go fight them! Want relaxation? Sail leisurely through the game’s beautiful blue waters, and drop the anchor to take in the picturesque sunsets and dynamic clouds. Want adventure? Go get some quests from the nearest port and go off searching for lost treasure. Want to goof around? Play a sea shanty with your friends and then see who can launch themselves out of a cannon and onto to the precipice of and island.

7. Meaningful Weapons That Engage the Player With the World

No, cannons alone aren’t great game design, but it’s how they work in Sea of Thieves that’s worth mentioning In the game, cannons are your ship’s primary weapon. We already covered natural interactions in #1 above, which is great because you have to go retrieve a cannon ball and then bring it to the cannon to load it in for a shot, but another thing that makes the cannons great is how slow their projectiles are, and how they respond to the state of the world around the player.

For many of the same reasons that bows are much more interesting in VR than guns are, cannons are smart for immersion too. The relatively slow movement and steep arc of the cannonball means that the cannons don’t act like lasers. Instead of the simple point-and-click of many gun implementations, players need to be able to account for what’s going on in the world around them. If your ship is still on flat water, when you fire a cannon the shot’s trajectory will be highly predictable. But, when you add the momentum of your ship, the momentum of the enemy ship, and the motion of your boat in the waves, aiming gets more complicated fast.

SEE ALSO
Delighting Users with Rich Interactions is Key to Making VR Engaging & Effective

That means that with each shot, you must be paying attention to the game world, otherwise you’ll never be able to appropriately lead, aim, and hit your opponent—and when you do, it’s very satisfying. Compare that to using a machine gun with laser accuracy in VR (which often turns out to get boring quickly). Conversely, games which use bows (which layer on much more interesting physical interactions than just pulling a trigger) have that satisfying feeling when you land that perfect arrow on an enemy. Note that some of the better VR games which do use guns, like Space Pirate Trainer (2017), also tend to have very slow-moving projectiles, because when it comes to VR, the very human interaction of observing, adjusting, and then achieving something is much more interesting than your kill count.

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Are you playing Sea of Thieves? Do you find it immersive? What other lessons can the game teach us about great VR design? Drop us a line below.

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  • gothicvillas

    Rare is onto something but in the current stage game world feels a bit empty. Killing skeletons is one thing I cant stand! This is just plain silly. Collecting treasures so you can buy new clothes is another thing I cant get excited about. After 5-6hrs me and my mates we got bored and put the game down. Maybe later they will add more things to do.
    But if Sea Of Thieves had VR support, that would be a completely different story. I could just sail and watch sea waves for hours. On a flat screen standard TV, this gets old very quick. No immersion imo.

    • nargorn

      Would rather like to get Kingdom Come Deliverance with VR Support instead of this or Skyrim. If anyone thinks the same here you go:

      http://steamcommunity.com/app/379430/discussions/0/1698294337763806957/

      • Matt Clark

        Imagine Mount and Blade Bannerlord

        • Paula

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        • Todd Ison

          Bannerlord when?
          But yes, I would never play anything else if I had bannerlord for VR… I probably wont play anything else when/if bannerlord comes out finally anyways… at least not for a few days/months/years.

        • Sandy Wich

          Don’t tease me, I’ve already been waiting for that friggen game for like 7 years.

    • Pablo C

      Sorry, I didn´t get it. So, this game, does or does not have VR support?, and at what level? Touch controllers? 6DOF?

      • gothicvillas

        No VR support at all. Thats the whole point. In non VR environment, it gets old very quick.

      • Myrddin Emrys

        As Ben said early in the article, the game has no VR support, but it does have a lot of the hallmarks of a well designed VR game so he described those. I wouldn’t be surprised at all of Rare is working on a VR version.

        • Sandy Wich

          If it did I’d buy SOT twice. One for my head, the other for my erecti-

      • benz145

        Second sentence:

        “And while Sea of Thieves itself doesn’t support VR natively, it’s undeniably immersive, and there’s a lot that VR developers can learn from its rich game design.”

        • Pablo C

          Yeah, I thought it was like Fallout, that originally did not, but the VR version does. English is not my fisrt language.

    • Mane Vr

      I was a part of the beta and also got bored playing and worse yet i am not a big pvp player also i don’t play with random people online so i was solo on my ship… so not recommended

      • KUKWES

        Pretty fun game when played with friends. I picked up game pass for free for a month because of a code I had. Pretty great value to play the game even if you pay for game or do the 14 day trial but like he said solo is not fun.

        • Michael Slesinski

          even getting arrested is “pretty fun” with friends. you guys need to stop that bullshit logic. the game is really a 2/10 but since you can play it with friends its a 7? thats asinine.

    • Sandy Wich

      I thought the exact same thing man. How. The. Hell. After ALL this development time, did Microsoft NOT impliment a VR mode for Sea Of Thieves?!??!… It’s basically MADE for VR!

  • Raphael

    So let’s see… we’re discussing a non-VR game because it would be great in VR? Maybe I need to quit doing drugs.

    • Xron

      Ermm, and why is it a bad thing? o.O
      Comparisons is an ok thing, because you can see which parts are lacking.

      • Robert Cummings

        Exactly. VR developers need to take note of the things that games like SoT are good at, and WHY they are good. Otherwise, we just get more wave shooters.

        And just for the record, my friends and I are having a blast in Sea of Thieves, both single-player and grouped. It’s hardly a “wasteland”.

        • Raphael

          The wave shooter thing ended some time ago. Let’s not exaggerate.

        • Michael Slesinski

          “having a blast” in a 1’x1′ sandbox? i guess that just makes you easily amused.

          • Robert Cummings

            Also easily amused by people who feel the need to denigrate people who like things they don’t like.

        • Sandy Wich

          Omg if I see another VR wave shooter……….

      • Raphael

        So I’m working on a non-vr game. Based on feedback from gamers it’s going to be successful. Wondering if I can have it featured on this site…

    • benz145

      Not even necessarily because it would be great in VR (though perhaps there’s some potential), but because, as I pointed out in the article, the game is immersive in ways that go beyond just having your vision taken up by the game world. Developers need to understand and learn how to design in ways that create deep immersion in order to make great VR games.

      • Michael Slesinski

        ..and alot of games have done it better, but you didnt cover THEM.

        • Sandy Wich

          What games have done it better?.. I’m quite series when I say that after playing SOT, it’s likely the best game i’ve ever seen that would have been flawless for VR.

          Everything you do requires actual physical interaction, lots of hand-work in telescope, shooting, sword fighting, sailing, messing with sales, canons, loading canons, carrying loot, fixing hull breaches…

          Honestly if SOT had more content and was VR capable, and done well… I’d probably install my entire VR games library as it would be on an entirely different level.

  • LowRezSkyline

    Please don’t cover non-VR games as if they are VR games. It’s pretty weak link bait bullshit.

    • JJ

      yeah they lost some face value wit this one.

      • Peter Hansen

        This article is about what this game can tell us about mechanics that many VR games could hugely benefit from. Perfectly valid, good reading.

        • Mateusz Pawluczuk

          Vr games can benefit hugely from non-vr solutions, yeah makes sense.. /s If this game has such good VR mechanics that all VR games should aspire then why is it non-vr? ;) Is Ben hoping SoT gets VR support or is this some kind of sponsored article? Just feels out of place, plenty of games have minimalistic UI and rich game design yet are not featured on RtVR..

          • Peter Hansen

            This game would not work very well in VR. But it has some features VR developers should take a look at. That is not a very complicated statement. What exactly do you not understand? Tell me and let me help you.

            Unless you just want to complain or troll. That’s fine by me.

          • Mateusz Pawluczuk

            I just think it’s bad practice to feature non-vr games on RtVR. I, just like many others, come here strictly for news from the VR world. So I guess you could say I’m voicing my complaint :)

            P.S Sorry if my post came across as confrontational Peter, wasn’t my intention.

          • Michael Slesinski

            they could have done the exact same thing with breath of the wild of pretty much any other game. you can extrapolate useful data from almost any relative source.. but you shouldnt need to. like game developers need to be TOLD to steal other peoples ideas..

    • Michael Slesinski

      amen, this pile of shit game gets enough press without it being where it doesnt belong.

  • David Herrington

    I think we all know what’s going on here. Ben got a bribe from Microsoft to cover the game as a “story” but in reality it’s just a marketing stunt for Sea of Thieves.

    Regardless, he makes some good points about Sea of Thieves. Despite it currently being an empty wasteland of a game, the interactions are actually very well done. I wonder if Rare will actually make it VR compatible.

    I also wonder if the Xbox One X will support Windows MR in the near future but Microsoft haven’t really said anything about it… yet.

    • JJ

      yeah he lost some face value with that one

      • Xron

        Stating great points of Non Vr game, that would add up immersion in a Vr game, is really ok…
        Unless You’re trolling, or hired by some other site to criticize this one -.-

        • jj

          nah its pretty annoying actually. As David said its clearly was Ben getting paid.

          • Matt Clark

            Eh, if I ran this site, I know I would create an article about how Sea of Thieves would be a great VR title. I would also say the same about Bioshock and Dishonored. They would all lend themselves to some damn good vr. What better way to get discussion rolling about a game deserving VR support than an article by a lead VR news site?

          • Raphael

            I wanna play bioshock in VR. Won’t ever happen except via mod or vorpx though. :(

          • Peter Hansen

            Sea of Thieves would NOT be a great VR title. You would be covered in vomit instantly.

            But this is not what this article was about. It’s about what we can learn from this game for creating immersive game mechanics.

            Stop being so toxic, everybody.

    • benz145

      You might be being hyperbolic, but we don’t do sponsored content, and we’re completely independent.

      I played the game, found it to be immersive, wondered why, and spent time distilling what could be learned from the game. For anyone interested in what makes good game design, it’s an interesting piece with things to learn, especially for VR developers who may also be gamers in general, and therefor interested in Sea of Thieves. I stand behind this article 100%.

      • David Herrington

        I may have overstepped my bounds and I thank you for your honesty. I will revise my comment so as not to disparage your reputation. There is a lot of money surrounding this game in place to put out fires and build hype, and I mistakenly assumed this to be the case.

        I appreciate what you guys do and look forward to more coverage.

        Honestly, I do hope that Sea of Thieves gets enough content soon to be what many would call a “full game” and even eventually comes to VR. Those water effects are out of this world.

        • benz145

          Thanks David, it means more to me that you’re willing to listen and have a conversation than any offense taken by initial claim.

          It sounds like you’ve been playing the game yourself, what are your thoughts on the points I made in the article?

      • Michael Slesinski

        you could do this with ANY fucking game! have fun telling everyone what vr developers can steal (oh sorry i mean “learn”) from far cry 5 in a couple days, and why didnt you tell them what they could steal (drat.. again) from vermintide 2? because you have some outside force MOTIVATING you to cover this game in particular.

  • Gary Kohout

    HAHA, I just skimmed through the article and thought “Dang, I need to check this game out!” Didn’t figure out it isn’t VR until reading the comments. LOL

  • Peter Laurent

    Sea of Thieves would be awesome in VR, if your stomach can handle it… sadly the game will never come to Steam, so Microsoft would have to completely overhaul the Windows Store for this to happen, but maybe they’ll have a VR announcement at E3 this year for Xbox One and Windows 10

    • Michael Slesinski

      er what? microsoft already sells vr games on its store.

      • Peter Laurent

        I stand corrected… however it is only for Windows Mixed Reality, so Oculus and Vive users would be out of luck

        • Michael Slesinski

          um.. oculus store has games on it that arent even on steam. the ones on the windows store are things like arizona sunshine and super hot vr, the only real exclusive (which again is whats on the oculus store) is minecraft.. and minecraft has NEVER needed steam.

          • Peter Laurent

            Sea of Thieves requires the Xbox Live service, it will never come to Steam.

    • Sandy Wich

      They did hype VR for the X, and even though I don’t think they are going to bring VR to it, It’s hard to believe they don’t want to get a piece of the future of entertainment at SOME point down the road, right?

  • Riaan Prinsloo

    Per se… not per say. Small thing, but like the removal of unnecessary items from the UI, little things can make a big difference. ;)

    • benz145

      Thanks Riaan, seems this article can teach lessons beyond what makes for strong immersion : P

  • Trip

    Wow, what a tease ya jerks! This game looks amazing and I think I’ll have to buy it but damn if it doesn’t look like it should have native VR support! We need to talk the devs into making it happen! I’d buy it for sure!

  • Raphael

    Perhaps you should have a regular section (page) of games that should be in VR… send a message to backward thinking developers….

  • Interesting article for people that are designing VR games

  • Michael Slesinski

    theres only 1 thing to learn from this game: finish the damn game BEFORE you release it.